The protagonist and hero of the novel. Yossarian is a captain in the Air Force and a lead bombardier in his squadron, but he hates the war. His powerful desire to live has led him to the conclusion that millions of people are trying to kill him, and he has decided either to live forever or, ironically, die trying.
Read an in-depth analysis of Yossarian.
A fantastically powerful mess officer, Milo controls an international black-market syndicate and is revered in obscure corners all over the world. He ruthlessly chases after profit and bombs his own men as part of a contract with Germany. Milo insists that everyone in the squadron will benefit from being part of the syndicate and that “everyone has a share.” He also takes his job as mess officer very, very seriously; as a result, the troops in Yossarian’s division eat better than any others.
The medical officer. Doc Daneeka feels very sorry for himself because the war has interrupted his lucrative private practice in the United States, and he refuses to listen to other people’s problems. Doc Daneeka is the first person to explain Catch-22 to Yossarian.
A friend of Yossarian. Timid and thoughtful, the chaplain is haunted by a sensation of déjà vu (the feeling of having seen or experienced a particular thing before) and begins to lose his faith in God as the novel progresses.
The ambitious, unintelligent officer in charge of Yossarian’s squadron. Colonel Cathcart wants to be a general, and he tries to impress his superiors by bravely volunteering his men for dangerous combat duty whenever he gets the chance. As he tries to scheme his way ahead, he considers successful actions “feathers in his cap” and unsuccessful ones “black eyes.”
An unhinged member of Yossarian’s squadron. A former photographer for Life magazine, Hungry Joe is obsessed with photographing naked women. He has horrible nightmares on nights when he is not scheduled to fly a combat mission the next morning.
A good-natured nineteen-year-old boy in Yossarian’s squadron. Nately, who comes from a wealthy home, falls in love with a whore in Rome and generally tries to keep Yossarian from getting into trouble.
The beautiful whore with whom Nately falls in love in Rome.
A cheerful, polite pilot who often flies Yossarian’s planes. McWatt likes to joke around with Yossarian and sometimes buzzes the squadron.
An idealistic member of Yossarian’s squadron. Clevinger firmly believes in such concepts as country, loyalty, and duty, and argues about them with Yossarian.
A co-pilot, Dobbs seizes the controls from Huple during the mission to Avignon, the same mission on which Snowden died.
A friend of Yossarian and the only other person who seems to understand that there is a war going on. Dunbar has decided to live as long as possible by making time pass as slowly as possible, so he treasures boredom and discomfort.
The supremely mediocre squadron commander. Born Major Major Major, he is promoted to major on his first day in the army by a mischievous computer. Major Major is painfully awkward and will see people in his office only when he is not there. His promotion to squadron commander distances him from the other soldiers, reducing him to loneliness.
The fierce, intense executive officer of the squadron. Major —— de Coverley is revered and feared by the men. They are afraid to ask his first name, even though all he does is play horseshoes and rent apartments for the officers in cities taken by American forces.
Yossarian’s navigator, even though he gets lost wherever he goes. Aarfy infuriates Yossarian by pretending that he cannot hear Yossarian’s orders during bombing runs.
Yossarian’s often-maddening roommate. Orr is a gifted fix-it man who is always constructing little improvements to the tent that he shares with Yossarian. He almost always crashes his plane or is shot down on combat missions, but he always manages to survive.
A handsome, athletic member of the squadron and a superhuman Ping-Pong player. Orr enigmatically says that Appleby has flies in his eyes.
The squadron’s bitter intelligence officer. Captain Black wants nothing more than to be squadron commander. He exults in the men’s discomfort and does everything he can to increase it; when Nately falls in love with a whore in Rome, Captain Black begins to buy her services regularly just to taunt him.
Colonel Cathcart’s wily, cynical sidekick.
The timid operations officer. Before the war, Danby was a college professor; now, he does his best for his country.
A grumpy old general in charge of the wing in which Yossarian’s squadron is placed. General Dreedle is the victim of a private war waged against him by the ambitious General Peckem.
A nurse in the Pianosa hospital who becomes Yossarian’s lover.
An alcoholic Native American from Oklahoma who has decided to die of pneumonia.
A fearless lead bombardier. Havermeyer never takes evasive action, and he enjoys shooting field mice at night.
A fifteen-year-old pilot who was flying the mission to Avignon on which Snowden was killed. Huple is Hungry Joe’s roommate; his cat likes to sleep on Hungry Joe’s face.
A famous American author whose name Yossarian signs to letters during one of his many stays in the hospital. Eventually, military intelligence believes Washington Irving to be the name of a covert insubordinate, and two C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Division) men are dispatched to ferret him out of the squadron.
A beautiful girl Yossarian meets, sleeps with, and falls in love with during a brief period in Rome.
Generally referred to as “the dead man in Yossarian’s tent,” Mudd was a squadron member who was killed in action before he could be processed as an official member of the squadron. As a result, he is listed as never having arrived, and no one has the authority to move his belongings out of Yossarian’s tent.
Later a colonel and eventually a general. Scheisskopf, whose name is German for “shithead,” helps train Yossarian’s squadron in America and shows an unsettling passion for elaborate military parades.
A body completely covered with bandages in Yossarian and Dunbar’s ward in the Pianosa hospital. The body terrifies the men.
The young gunner whose death over Avignon shattered Yossarian’s courage and caused him to experience the shock of war. Snowden died in Yossarian’s arms with his entrails splattered all over Yossarian’s uniform, a trauma that is gradually revealed over the course of the novel.
The chaplain’s atheist assistant, and later a sergeant. Corporal Whitcomb hates the chaplain for holding back his career and makes the chaplain a suspect in the Washington Irving scandal.
The mail clerk at the Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters, Wintergreen is able to intercept and forge documents and thus wields enormous power in the Air Force. He continually goes AWOL (Absent Without Leave) and is continually punished with loss of rank.
The ambitious special operations general who plots incessantly to take over General Dreedle’s position.
A pilot in the squadron.
General Dreedle’s son-in-law. General Dreedle despises Colonel Moodus and enjoys watching Chief White Halfoat bust him in the nose.
Chief White Halfoat’s old roommate, who is so afraid of having his throat slit while he sleeps that he has taken to living in the forest.
The lieutenant’s wife and the lover of all the men in her husband’s squadron, including Yossarian, with whom she debates about God.